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UF researchers say omicron will bring the biggest COVID surge but 'substantially fewer deaths'

 Drivers line up for COVID-19 tests on Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2021, in North Miami.
Marta Lavandier
/
AP
Drivers line up for COVID-19 tests on Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2021, in North Miami.

In a study this month, researchers concluded that "the omicron wave in Florida is likely to cause many more infections than occurred during the delta wave" — about 40,000 new cases per day.

The fast-spreading omicron variant could swamp Florida in a wave of coronavirus cases over the next two months that far surpasses the toll of the delta variant, according to new research from the University of Florida.

Delta exploded across Florida last summer and rendered Jacksonville one of the state's hot spots. But omicron could lead to 75% more cases over the next two months, say researchers at UF's Emerging Pathogens Institute.

In a study this month, researchers concluded that "the omicron wave in Florida is likely to cause many more infections than occurred during the delta wave" — about 40,000 new cases per day.

However, preliminary data suggests that omicron infections might be less severe than those caused by delta, so the new variant could cause "substantially fewer deaths," the study says.

Already, omicron has surpassed delta as the predominant version of the coronavirus nationwide. It was discovered in South Africa in November and first appeared in Florida on Dec. 7.

Florida reported 29,568 new cases of COVID-19 last week, more than double the week before, according to the Florida Department of Health.

The UF researchers — Thomas J. Hladish, Alexander N. Pillai and Ira M. Longini — noted that much about the omicron variant remains unknown. Thus they created four scenarios using assumptions about how transmissible the virus will be, how severe its illness will become and how well vaccines will protect people.

In all four scenarios, the UF team projected that the omicron wave will grow slowly through December, rapidly through January and peak in February.

Copyright 2021 WJCT News 89.9. To see more, visit WJCT News 89.9.